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Syrian rebels to hold unusual, immediate meeting

TEL AVIV – Leaders of Syrian rebel militias are planning to hold an immediate meeting between the borders of Syria and Lebanon, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The meeting, which has been described as unusual, includes members of the Al-Nusra Front jihadist group as well as militants from the al-Qaida-aligned Jihadiya Salafiya who have been fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the sources said.

Salafiya elements from Egypt, Jordan, Gaza and northern Lebanon will participate in the meeting, the sources added.

It was not immediately clear whether the confab was related to the insurgency against Assad, the border clashes with Israel or the growing clashes near the Syria-Lebanon border, where Sunni groups have been battling Iranian-backed Shiite factions.

The purported meeting comes as fighting in Syria on Sunday spread to the Israeli border.

A top Syrian official told WND early Sunday that it was the Syrian opposition and not the Syrian government that was behind the weekend firing at the Israeli border.

The Syrian official accused the jihadist opposition of attempting to draw Israel into the conflict to aid the rebels by targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Why would we fire at Israel?” asked the official, speaking on condition his name be withheld. “We have no interest in getting Israel to attack the Syrian military.”

The rebels are backed by the U.S. and international community.

The border incidents began Saturday, when a round of gunfire coming from the Syrian side hit an Israeli Defense Forces jeep on routine patrol in the northern Golan Heights. Another round fired from Syria targeted the same area in Israel Sunday.

The gunfire came from a region on the Syrian side of the border where rebels have been attempting to seize control of a border town the last few days.

Israel on Sunday responded with a missile attack that destroyed a Syrian army machine-gun position despite questions about whether the Syrian army was behind the fire into Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made clear he views Assad bearing the ultimate responsibility for any attacks from his side of the border.

Yaálon’s office released this statement: “We view the fire from Syria last night and this morning at IDF troops in Israeli territory as severe. The IDF responded in accordance with government policy. Every breach of Israeli sovereignty and each firing from the Syrian side will be met with an immediate response to silence the source of fire as we identify them. We see the Syrian regime as being responsible for every violation of our sovereignty.”

Today’s round of violence comes as the rebels are reportedly being fingered in last week’s alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan al-Assal, west of Aleppo.

The London Telegraph reported Sunday the Syrian military is said to believe a home-made, locally manufactured rocket was fire by rebels, containing a form of chlorine known as CL17, easily available as a swimming pool cleaner. Syria claims the warhead contained a quantity of the gas, dissolved in saline solution.

Informed Mideast security officials speaking to WND further blamed the rebels for the chemical attack.

The officials said it appears that the rebels are attempting to create a humanitarian crisis to precipitate the deployment of NATO to fight the Assad regime.